The adoption and entry into force of the Kyoto
Protocol was finally negotiated and concluded at the
3rd meeting of the United Nations
Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of Parties (COP-3) in
December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, following a series of submissions by
Parties to the UNFCCC and talks held by the Ad Hoc Working Group
established after COP-1 held in Berlin, 1995. The Kyoto Protocol
entered into force generally on 16 February 2005. Australia
signed the Kyoto Protocol on 24 April 1998, but did not ratify
until 12 December 2007 following the election of the ALP
government. To date, 182 parties have ratified the Kyoto
The object and purpose of the Kyoto
The Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 UNFCCC, serves to give effect to
the UNFCCC's objective of reducing human-induced greenhouses gases (GHGs) in an
effort to address climate change, guided by the UNFCCC's key
principles of PRECAUTION, INTERGENERATIONAL
EQUITY, sustainable development, and COMMON BUT DIFFERENTIATED
RESPONSIBILITIES and RESPECTIVE
CAPABILITIES. As a logical extension of this last
principle, Parties to the Kyoto Protocol are placed into one of two
The Protocol's objective is sought to be achieved through the
imposition on developed countries (included in Annex I) of individually assigned and legally binding
GHG emissions targets (prescribed in Annex B of the Protocol), with
the attendant commitment to the development and adoption of other
relevant enabling policies and measures. Notwithstanding the
variation in Annex I countries' emission targets, the goal is to
bring about a reduction of GHG emissions (listed in Annex A of the
Protocol) by, a collective average of at least 5 per cent
below the 1990 emissions levels for the commitment period
2008–2012. More specifically, 1990 is used as a base year for
whereas 1995 is the base year adopted for industrial trace gases
(HYDROFLUOROCARBONS (HFCs), PERFLUOROCARBONS (PFCs)
and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)).
Under the Kyoto Protocol, Australia is required to limit its
average annual greenhouse gas emissions over the 2008–2012
period to 108 per cent of its emissions in 1990.
Meeting obligations under Kyoto
The parties to the Kyoto Protocol can meet their obligations
either by reducing their greenhouse gas emissions or increasing
their removals sinks or both. Removals sinks are limited to direct
human-induced land-use change and forestry activities
(afforestation, reforestation and deforestation since 1990).
The Kyoto Protocol does not specify the mechanisms by which
Parties to the Protocol must meet their emissions target, thus
providing an Annex I country such as Australia reasonable amount of
discretion as to the policies and measures it implements
domestically to meet its target. Domestic abatement action should
be the primary means by which Annex I countries such as Australia
meets their emissions target. Parties are also provided with an
indicative list of policies and measures that they may wish to
consider. These include promoting sustainable agriculture,
promoting the renewable energy, removing market assistance for
environmentally damaging economic activities, confronting the issue
of transport sector emissions, and so forth.
The Kyoto Protocol also sets out three 'flexibility mechanisms'
that Annex I parties such as Australia may use as a supplementary
means of meeting its target. These potentially help Annex I Parties
cut the cost of meeting their emissions targets:
Operationalising the aims of the Kyoto
Protocol—the work of COP/MOP
An association of the Parties that have ratified the Kyoto
Protocol, known as the Conference of the Parties serving as
the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (COP/MOP), meets
around the same time as the UNFCCC COP and is the highest
decision-making body of the Kyoto Protocol. The most recent meeting
of Kyoto Protocol Parties took place at the United Nations Climate
Change Conference in Bali, December 2007.
Article 18 of the Protocol tasks COP/MOP with approving
appropriate and effective procedures and mechanisms to determine
and to address non-compliance. The final agreement on most issues
relating to compliance mechanisms was achieved in Marrakech in
2001. The Parties adopted Decision 24/C.7—Procedures and
mechanisms relating to compliance under the Kyoto Protocol. The
compliance and enforcement measures adopted included both soft
enforcement measures, such as persuasion and capacity building, and
also more punitive measures, such as exclusion from the flexibility
mechanisms and the imposition of penalties.
The Kyoto Protocol’s compliance regime consists of a
Compliance Committee made up of two branches—a facilitative
branch and an enforcement branch, both of which are composed of ten
members. The enforcement branch has the power to apply certain
consequences on Annex I Parties that fail to meet their
The articles of the Kyoto Protocol at a
Definitions of terms (Article 1).
Substantive obligations of Annex I State
Parties (Articles 2, 3, 5, 7).
Basic UNFCCC commitments for all parties to
the Kyoto Protocol (Article 10).
Financial assistance to developing
countries—this is basically a re-statement of the UNFCCC
(Articles 4(3) and 11).
The roles of COP, the Secretariat and
subsidiary bodies and processes with respect to the Kyoto Protocol
(Articles 9, 13, 14, 15, 16).
The use of market mechanisms to reduce GHG
emissions (Articles 4, 6, 12, 17).
Compliance and dispute resolution procedures
(Articles 18, 19).
Annex I—provides a list of emissions
reductions obligations on developed country parties and other
parties undergoing the process of transition to a market
Annex A— provides a list of GHGs covered
by the Protocol.
Annex B—lists the emissions targets for
Annex I countries.
of the Kyoto Protocol.